It may not have "Tycoon" in its name, but Cake Mania runs like a Tycoon game. You're Jill (sorry, guys, no Jack), the owner of a bakery who just graduated from culinary school. Jill's grandparents' bakery closed thanks to the new Mega-Mart nearby. The goal is to operate a new bakery and earn enough bucks to re-open Jill's grandparents' bakery.
Every level requires meeting a financial goal prior to moving to the next level. You can watch your progress at the bottom of the screen, which indicates how much cash you've earned in the level and the goal you need to reach. The game has over 45 levels (months) and four different styles of bakeries. As you earn money in each level, you can use it to buy more equipment and operate faster.
You don't simply take customer orders. You also give them a menu, bake their cakes to their requirements, serve customer, and collect money. Some customers require faster service than others. When you get a new kind of customer, the game tells you about the customer. One example customer is the college student who doesn't have a lot of money, but has more patience than most customers.
Every cake must be baked in a certain shape and frosted with a specifically requested color. You may need to add decorations, but it depends on the customer's request. Cheer up customers who lose patience by turning on the television to a favorite station or giving them a cupcake. Of course, you have to earn enough money to buy the television and cupcake microwave.
Levels are represented by the months of the year. Level one is January. As you go through each level, you'll see characters reflecting that month's holiday. Expect heart-shaped cakes and cupid in February, a bearded Easter Bunny in the spring, and Dracula. These folks may appear another time of the year as they take vacations, too. Serve Dracula as soon as possible because he scares customers away. These characters keep the game interesting and non-monotonous, a problem that can afflict these types of games.
The superbly designed interface makes those cakes look yummy. As you progress through the levels, you get more customers and the game gets more frantic. The early levels are easy and great practice in preparing you for the advanced levels.
Cake Mania comes with well-written documentation and guides the player throughout the game as new elements enter. Oh, and Jill must do everything as she can't afford to hire help. As you get more practice, you'll find a rhythm that works for you. However, once you reach a level where you start losing lives (not earning enough money for the level), it's going to be tough to survive the level, as all lives were lost in one level.
The game just misses five stars because once you get stuck on a level, it seems impossible to get through it with all four lives intact.
Sandlot Games has successfully created an addicting game with enough elements to avoid boring the player. Be prepared to work fast and come up with a routine to make it happen. Thank goodness those cakes can't be eaten, otherwise we'd be in trouble. There's a handheld version of the game, but better stay away or else real work won't get done.
Pentium II 400Mhz or better
128 MB System RAM (256 MB recommended)
3D Hardware Accelerated Video Card with 16 MB Video RAM
Internet Explorer 5.0+, AOL 5,6 or MSN browsers
Direct-X 7 or above
Keyboard and mouse required
Joystick and game pad are not supported
Cake Mania doesn't have an official rating, but it qualifies for E (Everyone) as explained by the ESRB.